“Before your very eyes” – comedian appeared at garden party

Arthur Askey, the famous comedian, opened the annual garden party at St Annes College for Girls, at Northwick, Clifton Drive South, St Annes.
 Here he is seen sharing a joke with Miss J Foden (right) one of the principals and Sheila Dent, head girl
Arthur Askey, the famous comedian, opened the annual garden party at St Annes College for Girls, at Northwick, Clifton Drive South, St Annes. Here he is seen sharing a joke with Miss J Foden (right) one of the principals and Sheila Dent, head girl

It’s hard to imagine these days a famous celebrity attending a small, local community event like a garden party.

But back in the mid-50s, that’s exactly what some of the big names of the day used to do, while in town for summer shows.

And in July 1955, it was the turn of St Annes College for Girls, at Northwick, Clifton Drive South, in St Annes, to receive a special visit.

Comic, actor and musician Arthur Askey attended the college’s annual garden party, performing the grand opening, joining in the fun and chatting to those attending. From these archive photographs, it seems he certainly got into the true spirit of the festivities.

He has on the Fylde coast that summer – as he was many other years – for a Blackpool summer show.

The Liverpool-born, pint-sized comedian was also enjoying a huge success with his live television programme, named after one of his catchphrases – Before Your Very Eyes.

He had performed in Blackpool earlier in 1955 at the Royal Variety Performance, at the Opera House.

His career spanned nearly 60 years and he loved cricket and golf. One of his favourite courses was St Annes Old Links.

He always regarded a trip to the Fylde coast as a “coming home” and was Blackpool’s staunchest supporter.

The 5ft 2ins star said of the resort: “As far as seasons go, you can’t touch Blackpool. I just love the Grand. Such a nice, old-fashioned theatre. It matches me.”

His first show in the resort was at the Tower in 1939 and he went on the play summer seasons at The Grand Theatre, Opera House and Palace Theatre and appeared at the Tower Ballroom and ABC Theatre.

His wide range of work included radio, variety, pantomime and even comedy musical. His last Blackpool summer season was as a guest star in a Val Doonican show, at the Opera House when he received word of his OBE, in 1969.

He fought ill-health in the later years of his career, but worked up until his death, in November 1982.